Langkawi Halal Travel Guide
Covid-19 Situation in Malaysia
Langkawi,(Jawi:لانكاوي ) officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. In 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 65,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
Introduction to Langkawi
The name “Langkawi” has two possible origins. First, it is believed to be related to the kingdom of Langkasuka, itself a version of the Malay negari alang-kah suka (“the land of all one’s wishes”), centered in modern-day Kedah. The historical record is sparse, but a Chinese Liang Dynasty record (c. 500 AD) refers to the kingdom of “Langgasu” as being founded in the 1st century AD. Second, it could be a combination of the Malay words ‘helang’, meaning “eagle” and ‘kawi’, meaning “reddish-brown” or “strong”, in old Malay.
Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, which held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi.
Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism and improving the lives of the islanders. The following boom was spectacular and now Langkawi figures on most every European travel agency’s radar.
This spectacular boom was also due to the fact that Mahsuri’s curse was lifted with the birth of her 7th generation descendant.
Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies in winter when the eastern provinces are flooded. Coupled with natural white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and craggy mountain peaks – but hampered by inaccessibility – the island was at one time touted as “Malaysia’s best-kept secret”.
The 10,000 hectares of Langkawi and its 99 islands were declared a geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2007.
Langkawi International Airport () is located at Padang Matsirat, on the northwestern part of the island. Over a million passengers pass through annually.
The following airlines offer service to/from Langkawi: Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Silk Air and Rayani Air.
Direct flights are available to Langkawi from Penang, Singapore, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu.
- Langkawi Ferry operates fast air-con boats from Kuala Perlis (RM18, 75 min), Kuala Kedah (RM23, 105 min), Penang (RM60, 165 min) (the ferry is freezing cold, so bring warm clothes), and Satun (RM30 or THB300, 75 min), (Satun ferry to Langkawi: last boat departs Satun at 16:00.
- Tropical Charters operates ferries from Kuah Jetty to Koh Lipe twice per day during the high season (October-late April) at 09:30 and 14:30 from Langkawi and 11:00 and 16:00 from Koh Lipe. During the low season, from late April to late May, the company only has morning trips. From late May, the ferry stops running until October. Price is RM118 one way (RM100 if you book online), including the longtail boat transfer and Thai custom fee. Check in is at the inner entrance of the Jetty Point Food Court. Registration closes 30 minutes before departure. The trip takes 90 minutes. Arrival in Lipe is at the Bundhaya Resort.
- Telaga Harbour operates speedboats from Ko Lipe, Thailand twice per day during the high season, at 09:30 and 14:30 (RM128 1-way, RM248 return, 75min). These boats dock at the south end of Pattaya Beach. Bookings can be made online.
There is effectively no public transport on the island, so your choices are to use taxis or to rent a car, motorbike/scooter, or bicycle.
A taxi from the airport to Pantai Cenang costs RM20 or less with Grab. You can buy a coupon at the taxi desk in the airport. From the ferry terminal to Pantai Cenang the price is RM24. For those arriving at the Kuah Jetty and going into Kuah Town, the price is RM8.
By car or motorbike/scooter
Renting a car or motorbike/scooter is highly recommended due to lack of public transport. This can be done at the airport, the port complex, or from shops on Pantai Cenang. Refrain yourself from renting from touts, as many are operating illegally without permits and usually without insurance. Remember that accidents happen to tourists on motorbikes/scooters every day, so be careful although the traffic is not as chaotic as in Penang and other areas.
Renting an air-conditioned mid-sized sedan costs RM70-RM150 per day (depending on model, condition and length of stay) and a 150cc motorbike/scooter costs RM40-45 per day. Cheaper but usually very used and older are the semi-automatic 115cc bikes for RM25 a day. A tired Proton with in Pantai Cenang maybe around RM60-90/day.
Check your fuel level regularly because petrol pump stations (gas stations) are far from one another. However, rental agencies do not care how much fuel is in the tank when the vehicle is returned so do not spend more on fuel than you have to. Fuel costs about RM1.90 a litre and you should return the bikes with the same filling level as you picked it up. Some rentals do check the level and mark it when you sign the slip.
At the petrol station for the first time will confuse you. You will need to guess how much fuel you need and pay first. Most saloon cars if empty are RM50 to fill up and motorbikes are approximately RM5. Sometimes you fill up your car/bike and you haven’t used what you have paid for not to worry you can claim this back at the counter.
Remember to drive safely and slowly on the island and on the left side of the road. There are tourists, children and animals like chickens, cows and even buffaloes crossing. Take care not to run over the beautiful snakes or monitors. Cattle and snakes like to lie on the road at night; the blacktop radiates heat.
Laws you need to know.
- You must carry your driver’s licence at all times.
- Seat belts are mandatory in all vehicles. Fines are given ranging from RM50 plus if not wearing.
- Helmets are mandatory. Fines are same as above but more importantly the hospital does not have facilities to treat head injuries, so you will have to get a medivac out to Penang, which takes 45 minutes or more — if the helicopter is available.
- An international driver’s licence is not necessary but licences must have text in English.
Road blocks are commonplace in Langkawi; they are mainly interested in locals with no licence/tax disc. Make sure you have the above items and your seat belt fastened, and you will have no problems.
Travel by bicycle in Langkawi
There are not much opportunities to rent bicycles here. If you do find somewhere, then expect to pay RM10-30 per day.